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INGOCAR from Valentin : Platform of The Future

The Valentin Technologies INGOCAR is not so much a hybrid vehicle concept as it is a completely unique power train concept. It's a hybrid, but it's not electric and it uses hydrostatic braking.
Images courtesy of Valentin Technologies

by Aaron Turpen

Specs:

  • Type: Hydraulic Hybrid
  • Class: 5-Seat Wagon
  • Developer: Valentin Technologies
  • Propulsion system: Hydraulic Dynamics
  • Top Speed: 93mph+
  • Vehicle range: 300+ miles
  • Fuel(s): Gasoline / Diesel / Bio fuels
  • Price: Unannounced
  • Availability: Design Prototype Only

The manufacturer says

"Electric Hybrids are not more efficient than the best Diesel engine driven cars, but are noticeably heavier and more expensive. The benefits are their low pollution, however, recent studies show that electric vehicles release up to 65% less carbon than current hybrids when the electricity they use was taken into account. (San Francisco Electric Vehicle Association) This means the 170 mpg Hydraulic Hybrid has a noticeably smaller carbon footprint than the best electric cars†(145 mpg)."

Overview

The Valentin INGOCAR concept is really a drive train concept more than it is an alt-fuel vehicle concept. The car's body design is very interesting due to its aerodynamic properties, but the underlying chassis and powertrain are the real innovations with this vehicle.

Under development for over fifteen years, the first proof-of-concept models tested successfully in 1986 and 87 and have continued forward. The inventor and team lead, Ingo Valentin, is in Elm Grove, Wisconsin and has assembled a team of Wisconsinites along with a mechanical engineer from the Netherlands and a fluid power systems professor in Indiana to perfect the INGOCAR.

The concept is breathtakingly simple, eliminating most of what makes today's gasoline and diesel automobiles so expensive to manufacture: framing, relatively large displacement engines (compared to the vehicle's overall size/volume), and the huge losses of energy that occur between the engine, the power train, the wheels, and the braking.

Instead, the car is built on a simple I-shaped tubular frame in which compressed hydraulic fluids are interchanged to create motion in hydro-propelled motors in each wheel. The motors can be reversed (by reversing valves), turning them into braking systems that recuperate 70-85% of the forward motion energy back into storage for later use in the car.

The internal combustion engine (ICE) that provides the power to compress the fluids for energy storage can run as needed (start-stop) at optimum RPMs at all times, thus being capable of up to 170mpg in the INGOCAR design. That 170mpg comes at no price for power, however, as the vehicle has a total of 670hp in potential with a 0-60mph speed of under 5 seconds.

Each wheel motor is smaller and lighter than its caliper brake counterpart (which it replaces) and considerably more efficient than nearly all motor/engine types they might be replacing on a similar car with total losses of only 30% - and the motors require no transmission, no electronic controller, no complex parts at all.

The I-shaped frame has a front latticework attached to cradle the ICE and a few other components (battery, etc.). Inside the tubes of the I-frame are bladders with one side filled with compressed nitrogen and the other side with hydraulic fluid. The bladder compresses and retracts according to the pressure given to the fluids, storing up to 1.8 microjoules (6,800 psi).

The tubular accumulators double as the framework for the car and because of that and their relatively high internal pressures, they are made of high-strength container walls made up of carbon fiber layers. They share a similar design with pressurized natural gas (PNG) and other high-pressure liquid/gas containers.

The 170mpg ICE the Valentin team prefers for this current rendition of the INGOCAR is a 2-stroke diesel using opposed free pistons, since no crankshaft or valve timing components are required, the engine is extremely simple, long-lasting, and efficient (as well as vibration-free, see this OPOC for more). The Valentin engineering team added a hydraulic-control mechanism to the engine to improve control and efficiency even further and allow for equal control over liquid as well as gaseous combustion fuels. Extremely low emissions are the result of all of this efficiency plus the addition of an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system.

The entire vehicle is all-wheel drive, requires very little fuel to travel long distances, and provides a stable, low-centered platform for the vehicle. The vehicle body could be interchanged almost at will, as the chassis is entirely self-contained.

Talking to Valentin

We had a short talk with Ingo Valentin, the concept's inventor and a mechanical engineer specializing in hydraulics.

We asked if this concept is scalable from passenger (light vehicle) sizes up to heavy vehicle (18-wheeler tractor, 80,000lb GVW) size.

Ingo: The concept can be scaled. There is not really a limit, and everything between 50 hp and 10,000 hp seems to me in a normal range by the dimension of the parts. I developed a comparable motor unit for a hydraulics manufacturer in the mid-seventies.

As with many concepts, but especially with one as groundbreaking as this one, we know that a lot of governmental red tape will be involved. We asked Valentin about this and how his company is dealing with it.

Ingo: I have seen far more red tape than expected. It seems it is really not red tape, more like DNA. However, if the concept and its benefits are realized, the majority of people would like it (little money for gas and zero to 60 in four seconds) and it would be difficult to directly oppose it. I assume some might try it anyway, but the possible benefits - no dependency on foreign sources of oil and clean air - are not easily overcome. In Germany, industrial vehicles (forklifts) are allowed to be built and operated with a hydrostatic power train as the main braking system. This means there is a has already been a thought process in this direction.

We then remarked about the fact that the vehicle's body is, in a way, secondary to the underlying chassis and drive train and would, therefore, be capable of "hot swapping" - removing the body of, say, a station wagon and replacing it with a pickup truck for occasional utility.

Ingo: This was the idea early on. The determining factor is the gross vehicle weight [GVW], which determines the braking power of the wheel motors. A significant over-sizing of the platform (to make it "one-fits-it-all") reduces the efficiency and increases the cost for the smaller, lighter vehicles. The location of the wheels (wheelbase) can be changed relatively easily. However, I have thought more about "hot swapping" for maintenance and repair.

Finally, the question of when the INGOCAR might see production was raised.

Ingo: Currently, I am in the process of securing capital to build and test the prototype of the car platform. The interest in the platform is really high. I didn't expect it at this stage of the development. The prototype of the hydraulic motor has been tested. The test of an updated version with further increased efficiency is planned, together with the platform. The expected time for manufacturing and testing the platform is 18 months. The capacity for a small production run (300/month) should be available within nine months after that. A noticeable increase in capital available will reduce the time needed.

What we like

Extremely Innovative and thought-provoking, the Valentin design has a lot going for it in terms of efficiency, economy, and power. It is also very flexible and could be size-adapted to fit a very large array of body types ñ even existing ones from current manufacturers.

Highly Efficient, the design beats every hybrid-electric on the road for efficiency, simplicity, and cost-effectiveness.

Inherently Robust, the INGOCAR design would be hard to destroy in an accident due to the cylindrical shape of nearly all major components as well as the unique bumper-compression idea the Valentin team has designed to safely compress a bumper (capturing the energy, of course) to nearly eliminate most damage from low-speed front or rear collisions.

What we don't

Long Time Coming to market, if ever, this design is very exciting, but not likely to be seen on the road outside of prototypes for quite a while. This despite the long effort to design it so far.

Government Roadblocks will likely be the bane of this design, as with most total-rethinks of any automotive build. Most federal and state highway regulations will either not apply to this design (which won't stop the bureaucrats) or will be misapplied despite their outdated thinking.

Conclusions

This vehicle is nothing but thought-provoking and will force most who seriously consider it to rethink how they envision automotive design and the future of the passenger vehicle.

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